DemDaily: “Clear and Present Danger”

December 9, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee heard over nine hours of testimony from Democratic and Republican legal counsels for the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, regarding their findings in the Trump impeachment investigations.

(Image: CBSNews)

Background
December 3, 2019: The House Intelligence Committee released "The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report" that found that Trump, "to advance his personal political interests, ... subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically-motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign."

The 300-page report, written in consultation with the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was submitted to the Judiciary Committee for its consideration in drafting articles of impeachment.

December 4, 2019: The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the constitutional grounds for impeachment from four leading constitutional legal scholars. Three were chosen by the Democrats and one by the Republicans.

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." -Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution

"the Constitution's final answer to a President who mistakes himself for a monarch" (click)

December 5, 2019: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying "The president leaves us no choice but to act," formally called on Democratic committee chairs to begin drafting articles of impeachment.

December 6, 2019: The White House sent a letter to Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), calling the proceedings "completely baseless," and saying it will not mount a defense in the House impeachment proceedings.

December 7, 2019: The House Judiciary Committee released its 52-page report, titled "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," addressing six issues of potential relevance, including abuse of executive powers and contempt of Congress.

December 9, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee conducted hearings and heard testimony from House committee majority and minority legal counsels.

President Trump posted over 100 messages on Twitter Sunday and Monday, attacking the Democrats and calling the hearings "a disgrace, it's a hoax."

Witnesses
Barry BerkeHouse Judiciary Committee Majority Counsel
Berke, 55, is a renowned trial lawyer who is on leave from the New York-based law firm of Kraven Levin to serve as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee Democrats during the impeachment inquiry.

House Majority Counsel Barry Berke (NYT)

He has been named by Legal 500, Benchmark Litigation and Chambers USA, as "one of the top white-collar lawyers in the country."

Highlights
"This is a big deal. President Trump did what a president of our nation is not allowed to do."

Berke testified that Trump directly violated the impeachment clause as defined by the constitutional framers, saying Trump's 'brazen" actions "threaten our rule of law, they threaten our institutions and, as James Madison warned us, they threaten our republic."

Berke also pointed to Trump's pattern of corrupt behavior, referring to obstruction conduct outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, and warning against interference in future elections.

"If, in fact, President Trump can get away with what he did again, our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next, or what a future president may do next to abuse his or her power to serve his own personal interests over the nations."

Stephen CastorHouse Judiciary Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Minority Counsel
Castor, 46, is a career congressional staffer, having started with the House Oversight Committee in 2004, and rising through the ranks under seven consecutive chairmanships to become the committee's top GOP lawyer -- before being transferred to the intelligence Committee for the impeachment hearings.

During his career Castor was in charge of the Republicans' probes into the Obama administration and was the lead attorney investigating how U.S. diplomats handled Benghazi.

House Minority Counsel Stephen Castor

Highlights
Castor played defender-in-chief for President Trump, calling the hearings "baloney" and that Democrats had failed to make a case for impeachment.

Castor: "This unfair process reflects the degree to which Democrats are obsessed with impeaching President Trump by any means necessary."

Castor also underscored a theme throughout the hearing that the Intelligence Committee report relied too heavily on the testimony, who was referenced more than 600 times in the report, and who Castor considered "an unreliable witness."

Castor contended that Trump had genuine concerns about corruption in Ukraine and was skeptical of "the inter-agency bureaucracy" and was therefore for justified in suspending American aid, and in going to outside advisors like Giuliani, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland and others.

Daniel GoldmanHouse Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Majority Counsel
Prior to being hired as general counsel for the House Oversight Committee in March, 2019 for the impeachment inquiry, Goldman, 44, served as a legal analyst for NBC.

He is best known for his ten years working at Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he successfully prosecuted a number of Genovese crime mobsters, and Las Vegas sports gambler Billy Walters.

Nadler (D-NY) and Collins (R-GA) tangle during hearing.  Nadler: "President Trump put himself before country."(Susan Walsh/AP)

Highlights
Goldman: "President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security."

Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani came up as a subject of the impeachment inquiry throughout the hearings. One of the more heated exchanges came when Ranking Committee member Doug Collins (R-GA) attacked Goldman over inclusion of Giuliani call logs in House Intelligence Committee report, calling it a "partisan smear."

The calls revealed conversations with Giuliani's indicted associate Lev Parnas, as well as with Congressman and former House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), and conservative journalist John Solomon.

Goldman: "I'm not going to get into the deliberations of our investigation with you," but "I will tell you the reason it was included in the report is because the calls were surrounding important evidence to our investigation."

Republican James Sensenbrenner (WI) echoed the call of other GOP members to have House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff testify about the "abuse of power" in subpoenaing the call records, demanding Schiff "man up" and stop "hiding behind Mr. Goldman."

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) summarized key evidence in the case, starting with the famous quote from the Watergate hearings,"What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

House Intelligence Majority Council Daniel Goldman

"Mr. Goldman, who sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to smear Joe Biden?" ... Who fired the anti-corruption ambassador in Ukraine?...Who ordered his own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold critical military assistance for Ukraine?.. Who personally asked President Zelensky to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden?" To each question Goldman answered "President Trump."

"So as it relates to President Trump," Swalwell concluded, "is he an incidental player or a central player in this scheme?" Goldman: "President Trump is the central player in this scheme."

Next Steps
The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment the week before Christmas. If passed, they will send them to the full House for debate and a vote.

If the House impeaches, the next stage is a trial in the US Senate, which would result in either an indictment or acquittal.

While not participating in the House hearings, the White House has said it will support a Senate trial, where Republicans have the majority and are expected to limit hearings to two weeks.

Last week, the Senate released its 2020 legislative calendar, leaving the month of January blank as it faces the likelihood of a trial.

Also today, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report was released, finding that the FBI's Russia probe, which began in advance of the 2016 election and put in motion Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, was justified and untainted by political bias against Trump.

DemList will keep you informed.

Related
DemDaily: "Everyone Was in The Loop" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Four and Five 11/22/19
DemDaily: "Here, Right Matters" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Three 11/20/19
DemDaily: "The Corruption Buster" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Two 11/15/19

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